Mourning into Joy 

I have the honour of being a part of a series called mourning into joy stories started by Sharon McKeeman (@sharonmckeeman on instagram #mourningintojoystories). As I began to write, I realized that there was more I wanted to share than a few sentences on instagram hence this blog post. I feel like sharing my own process might help someone out there.

*Disclaimer, this post is super raw and real and deals a lot with loss, mess and mental illness. If this makes you feel uncomfortable, please feel free to avoid this post!*

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2017. We’ve now entered the 7th year since we lost our daughter Eisley. In some ways it definitely feels like it’s been years, and in others it feel as though it was just yesterday. Here is a bit of our journey and my own honest process through loss.

At 13 weeks pregnant I bled, they found a blood clot which ultimately killed 2/3 of my placenta by week 19. And so began our journey with our Eisley-girl. Nearly every day for months we were told that we would lose her (due to the lack of nourishment to her body). That we should abort her and get on with our lives. But she fought, she held on longer than they’d ever expected. So much longer that the day before she passed away they shared with us that they’d deemed her “viable” and they would deliver her the next Friday. While her potential death had been lingering in it minds for months, it was still a complete shock to our systems when she passed away. It felt unbelievable – she’d held on for so long (7 months). We were so close. We had prayed and believed with everything in us. Many around the world prayed for her. And yet there we were, suddenly thrown into a world of loss: deciding how to birth her (we choose induction and she came 3 days later), preparing to meet her only to say goodbye, planning arrangements for her body, a memorial service to honour her life… and then the years of grief that have followed since.

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At first, I felt peace. Along with many, many things and I let myself feel through them all. I thought I was grieving “well”, to be honest. And then year after year I noticed my heart growing harder, I realized my prayer life had died along with our sweet girl. I didn’t even know how to pray and even how to believe for the best anymore. I denied these things, of course. Until the ache and bitterness inside me seeped out. Into my marriage, my family, my friends. My dreams and desires had changed, even my beliefs shifted. 2015 was my toughest year – I found myself depressed beyond what I’d ever imagined. My marriage was falling apart due to distance I’d created. I felt angry and bitter at everything, especially with God.

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I found myself living defensively, afraid to be broken again – believing I couldn’t possibly live through anymore brokenness and I’d do my best to control all things to avoid this. Having control seemed like the place to be. It seemed safer than giving anyone or God the reigns, that much was certain. So I clenched my fists and held on. But what I found instead was I felt out of control trying to maintain control. I was always angry (still struggle with this bad habit), always defensive and overly protective, always building new walls, all while trying to appear as though I had it all together. Trying to show loss hadn’t broken me beyond repair, that God was still on the throne of my life, that having two healthy pregnancies after Eisley had “redeemed” many things. Yet beneath the hardened shell was a broken Jami who didn’t even know if she believed in God anymore, and she certainly didn’t believe the sayings she’d heard others speak over her to cover her grieving and broken heart. Beneath it all was a girl who felt she’d scarred her marriage, her children and her own life beyond repair. A girl who felt all hope was lost and constantly wondered how she’d carry on.
I hit rock bottom March 2015. I entered the new year pregnant yet lost the baby at 8 weeks. Less than a month later, our daughter Everly (almost 1) was hospitalized with RSV and it triggered memories of loss and I imagined the worst case scenario possible during the scary times with her. Though she was only in for 4 days and recovered well it triggered grief I’d shoved away and it all felt too much to handle. And to be completely honest, the best option I saw was to leave this world of pain and heartache. I walked my husband and family through hell on that terrible night in March, when I felt I couldn’t continue living the way I was.

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But Jesus met me in my brokeness. When I felt all hope was lost. He met me and I didn’t feel hopeless even though I didn’t know what was next. My husband and I started counseling. I got on medication for depression and anxiety. And we fought: for life, for restoration, for hope, for dreams.
By the time 2016 came I still felt broken though healing was happening. Ted had to move away to Alaska to provide for us as a family and I suddenly was thrown into parenting alone and actually two of my worst fears were combined: I felt so alone. And I felt judged and misunderstood by those around me.
It was unfair to place expectations on others to look after me, especially when I wasn’t honest with where I was really at emotionally/mentally. But I did. And guess what? I was wounded and expectations weren’t met. And I felt utterly alone – so alone in fact it felt physically painful.
And He met me again. Jesus, without any amount of phony sayings to get me through suffering, He just met me in my broken mess. I picture it like this: I’m sitting on the ground with huge glass mirrors shattered all around me. No one wants to come close because of the mess and the fear of being hurt themselves, but here comes this guy I’d rejected so much in the past few years. He didn’t care about the mess, the chance of being wounded… He cared about ME. In fact so much that He joined me in the thick of the mess and brokenness.

“In brokenness I see your face, the colour of your eyes and the taste of your ways.”

(I wrote this years ago and it’s so very true. I realized how close He really was. He’s in my suffering with me.)

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Suffering is so complex. And I still have my doubts, I still have questions, and still have no full answers but one thing I do believe with everything within me is that He meets me here. In this mess, in the suffering. He doesn’t shun me for asking the hard questions or for having doubt. He can handle me at my worst and is unashamed of me. He is not disappointed with me. He’s WITH me in my suffering.
Whatever you are going through currently or still processing from years and maybe decades past, HE is with you in your suffering. And anyone who tells you that you must have blind faith, and accept that He “gives and takes away”. Let it go. It isn’t true. He is a good and loving Father and He didn’t do “this” to you. (Seriously, go and watch the sermon on Job by Greg Boyd called Twisted Scripture – it wrecked me in the best way!)
People may not be able to handle you at your worst, but Jesus sure can. Go to Him, He will walk beside you until you find your feet and even then He stays put, helping you as you walk through this journey of loss, heartache and pain.

Through every ebb and flow of grief’s waves. Through every memory that still stings, through every present ache that exists.

He is with you, carrying you, holding you, crying with you…

He will be with you always.

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He can turn your mourning into joy.

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Since the loss of our Eisley-girl, we have since welcomed two healthy pregnancies and babies into our family. While they do not take the place of our sweet girl or perfectly redeem what we’ve walked through, their precious lives have helped in our healing process. We are so grateful for who they are, and how much they’ve impacted our family!

Shailo Valour (5) – We were terrified during his pregnancy yet felt so strongly that he was everything we named him, Shailo (Shiloh) – God’s gift, a place of peace and rest and worship in a time of battle and Valour (Valor) meaning courage in the face of fear/battle, brave. He has truly, even from the womb, been our brave little gift from God in the midst of fear/anxiety/battle. Seriously, our lives are so much more full, exciting and adventurous with Shailo Valour in our lives.

And Everly Selah (almost 3) –  I remember crying out to Him one evening and journaling my heart out. There was a part of me that felt we would have another daughter someday, and I decided on that evening her name would be a reflection (of who He is to us, to her and who she is to Him) and a declaration that would mean “Forever Amen”. I knew that I wanted her name to declare that He is forever sovereign, good, loving, caring, worthy, etc, etc, etc… amen. We wanted to declare that even though we’ve walked through the darkest valley (for us) He is still all of the beautiful things we believed He was. Despite our suffering and loss, He was still good and caring. We were still His and He was still our Father who loved us. I decided I wanted our next girl’s name to mean forever… so I decided on Ever and added ‘ly’ to fit with our Eisley-girl’s name. Though she ins’t here with us on Earth, I still, very much so, wanted her to be apart of our family. Even when it comes to names. 

We are now 30 weeks pregnant with our 3rd son, and we are hopeful and believing he will be joining us come early March! 

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simply put: i struggle too.

Recently I hung out with a rockin’ momma to two boys. Our crazy boys ran wild and we talked. I felt at ease around her and like I didn’t have to worry if she saw just how crazy my life with my boys can get. What I loved is how very real she is: authentic and genuine. She shared her heart and struggles and thoughts. I appreciated it oh so much. We were talking and I realized I hadn’t seen her for months. Life gets super busy and while I know that was a part of it, I also realized something else this morning. I’ve tried to connect with other momma’s in the area, to be turned down, often. (This isn’t a pity party post, I promise :))

I have come to realize, that a lot of the struggle is me. Unless people really take the time to get to know me, they feel I am not relatable. Why? I’ve recently figured this out.

And oh.my.word. it breaks my heart.

I share a lot on social media, photos-wise. I share beautiful moments from our lives – down to the daily life that I find cute, or a meal, or I share creative things, places we’ve visited, things I’ve made, silly moments, etc. Over time and a handful of conversations later I’ve come to realize, people are intimidated. I guess from the outside looking in, mostly via my sharing photos, my life might seem like I have a lot of things “together” or “going for me”. I definitely know the reality of my life is far from these things, but maybe a struggling momma would see this differently when she sees a photo I post?

Today, I am here to say, I am not. I am sooooo far from having it all together. And I am so sorry if that is how you feel I’ve portrayed my life. It breaks my heart that in sharing, people might believe this to be true. After hearing little remarks/comments such as me being referred to as a “pinterest mom” or “super mom” or “that mom who makes all others look bad”, etc I know the importance of wanting to clearly share and portray my heart to you. I feel sick knowing that I’ve caused others to feel intiminated or downcast or like I am not able to relate.

My entire hope is to:

a) document our lives

b) encourage and uplift and inspire others in things I post: whether about life or in creativity

c) focus on the more positive because of where we’ve walked in life. I {have} to focus more on those moments or I sink deep into my depression.

I am weary of others either feeling I am unable to relate to struggle or that what I post is a facade. I’m here to say, I STRUGGLE and this is not a facade.

I know what the “world” says in successful and it’s truly a facade. It’s so difficult because we feel we need to put on these facades, to show the world that we’ve got it all together. When the reality could be, we are struggling, we are lonely, we need community. We need a safe place to share honestly and feel no judgement whatsoever. That is exactly why I recently started a momma’s group.

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(found this via pinterest and loved it!)

If we allow it, there is an intimidation that we sometimes feel when it comes to others and how we mother or even how we live our lives. Desiring their giftings or perhaps, when it comes to the lives we see online or what we think we see face to face.

 I struggle because I want to share the more positive because that truly is an honest outlook on our life. Some of this is wired in me and some of this has really become a part of me since we’ve lost Eisley. I feel more aware and thankful for things I once took for granted.

But sometimes I struggle. I mean really struggle.

Sometimes Ted gets home from work at night and I have yet to shower, I’m in boogy and food covered yoga pants, dinner is only just getting started (if that), laundry might be done but folded – no way. Sometimes I am in tears or just bone weary.

I struggle because I know that I can’t have the house clean all of the time – that is unless I go mad-crazy and decide to clean all day long. I struggle because I don’t like to cook – I’m a stay at home momma who actually, dare I say, HATES to cook. I have no creativity or passion when it comes to this area. Zilch. I struggle because I have never been good at a strict nap schedule – or really, any kind of schedule – for my boys. You wouldn’t believe how often I feel guilty that it isn’t my strong area. My boys more often than not, stay up way too late and get up way too early.

I struggle because some days I yell at my kiddos or cry way more than I “should” in front of them.

I struggle lately because my sweet Chaseyboy has become mouthy, rude and keen to tantrum throwing when he doesn’t get his way.

I struggle when my boys seem to they fight more than love on each other.

I struggle taking passive aggressive things people post online (that have nothing to do with me) personally.

I struggle when others think I have my life together when I feel so often it’s messy and I’m often lonely and living as a broken and depressed and (still) grieving momma.

I have been struggling lately as I hear the comments that continue to flood in. I’m a sensitive soul and a people pleaser and I try to be as authentic as possible.

I actually feel so dumb saying it, but I’m truly trying to share the more difficult moments as well. I share here on my blog a lot about my struggles with depression, or about the loss of Eisley or even about Ted and I and about Chase and our struggles with him. I haven’t shared those sort of things on facebook and other social media sites as much because to be honest, after we lost Eisley I realized it made people uncomfortable or people didn’t want to hear it. People didn’t want to know what was going on. And also, passive agressive comments fly around on facebook so often about people who use facebook as a diary – and at times, reading and hearing videos of things people shared regarding this – it broke my heart. Here I felt lonely and shared online because of this (is this right? probably not, however when you aren’t a part of a community of people who want to hear what’s going on, it’s hard not to want to reach out – which is lame, but for me at a time, that meant through my blog and through my facebook. Asking for prayer and hope and encouragement. To know we weren’t alone.)

Something that has helped me a lot recently is a book called Abba’s Child by Brendan Manning. I feel like I am accepting my broken nature and learning who I truly am in Him.

I was sharing with a friend my struggles with these comments and how I’ve begun to realize how people perscieve me. It breaks my heart. If you know me or have followed me here, you know I love to document our lives. A part of who I am is that when I feel inspired, I pick up my camera. I don’t often feel inspired when I’m battling through a tantrum with my almost 4-year-old or when my boys are pummeling each other out of anger or when my husband and I are arguing. Or when my house is a wreck. Or when I’m up for 4 hours straight with my 1 1/2 year-old due to weaning. Or when I’m popping in my anti-depression medication right before bed each night.

Photos and posts about this, it is actually harder for me. Not because I don’t want to share those moments in fear of judgement – no, in fact I’ve come to realize people judge less when I share such photos. And when I share positive, I feel even more judged at times. It is mostly harder for me because I truly want to focus on the positive. I want to capture the beautiful moments – and now, I am working on capturing the more difficult ones as well. I have realized that people feel I am more relatable when I share these moments as well.

There are comments and things I have to brush off as someone’s judgement of me, but as I’ve heard from people I respect and admire myself, I realize, even those who aren’t judging me tend to believe this true of me. It breaks my heart and I hope today I was able to share a bit more to help put things into perspective and explain my heart.

I struggle too. Every day.

It’s just that for me, I {HAVE} to create and I {HAVE} to focus more on the positive. This is for me personally.

If I wasn’t such a people pleaser and an empathy-person, this post wouldn’t be happening ;) However, any time that even ONE person has a struggle with me, I’m torn. So this post may be more for me than for you, but I hope I’ve clearly portrayed what I have hoped all along.

Authenticity, possitivity and inspiration.

Love, Jami